Back to the future…Celebrating England’s Euro 96 triumph
Gareth Southgate steps up to the penalty spot, looks Andreas Kopke in the eyes, begins his run-up and bids to put England into the final of Euro 96.
Football fans of a certain age will remember what happened that day at Wembley, but now, 19 years later we are pondering what the future might have held had he netted that penalty.
On Back to the Future day, the date Marty McFly and Doc wound up in the second installment of the series, we are entering an alternate universe where the ball hit the back of the net…
After Southgate sent the German goalkeeper the wrong way from 12 yards, before the ponytailed genius David Seaman kept out Andreas Möller’s effort, the momentum was well and truly with Terry Venables’ men.
The thought of taking on Karel Poborsky and co in the final was of no worry to the nation’s footy supporters, especially with the likes of Alan Shearer and Paul Gascoigne in the line-up.
However, things didn’t quite go according to plan as the Czechs held out for the full 90 minutes, before some dogged defending kept out the home barrage in extra time.
So here we were again, for a third straight match penalties were the decider, this time the trophy itself was at stake.
But it was no problem for England, now masters from the spot, as Shearer and Southgate – promoted up the order after the semis – netted the first two.
Backed up by Seaman in goal, they were unstoppable as the Arsenal man kept the first three opposing penalties out.
It was up to Gascoigne to seal the deal. The likeable Geordie stepped up with swagger and nonchalantly chipped the ball over the diving Petr Kouba.
Previously known as a ‘Panenka’, the practice became known as a ‘Gazza’ following the tournament.
Scenes of pandemonium followed as England were crowned champions of Europe.
But the hysteria lasted much longer. The man who netted the winning penalty was given the highest honour by the Queen.
From that moment on, he was known as ‘Sir Paul’.
He also became something of an inspiration to his peers on the style front. His bleached blonde ‘do became the latest must-have to go along with Puffa jackets and a pair of Adidas Predators.
It was even adorned by some of his team-mates when the Three Lions went to France for the World Cup two years later.
Seaman himself, now adored by more than just half of north London, started his own fashion craze with thousands of zany replica shirts later sold around the world.
Speaking of inspiration, Gareth Southgate dedicated his victory to the tune that had been blaring out of Walkmans throughout the England dressing room.
Tournament anthem ‘Three Lions’ by Baddiel & Skinner & the Lightning Seeds was nominated as the reason he kept his nerve from the spot.
The British public sought to reward the group, with a monumental fan campaign seeing the hit sent to the top of the charts once again to land the Christmas Number One at the expense of the Spice Girls.
Finally, the scene of England’s greatest victory since the World Cup became a symbol of the nation’s success.
Wembley’s Twin Towers were granted protection by English Heritage, protecting them from demolition in the future.
Every year since, on June 30, the date of the final, thousands of football fans walk down Wembley Way to celebrate in front of the white behemoths to remember the day that England became penalty kings.
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